Lyles to start homer opener; McGee named closer

Gurka, Barnes make cut as Weiss finalizes roster

Lyles to start homer opener; McGee named closer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Walt Weiss announced Saturday that righty Jordan Lyles will start Friday's home opener against the Padres, that lefty reliever Jason Gurka and outfielder Brandon Barnes claimed the final undecided roster spots, and that lefty Jake McGee will be the closer.

The decisions mean that righty reliever Scott Oberg and non-roster righty Gonzalez Germen will begin the season at Triple-A Albuquerque.

The season will start with a four-man rotation, with lefty Jorge De La Rosa and righties Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood starting -- in order - in the three-game, season-opening series at Arizona starting Monday. Righty Christian Bergman is considered the fifth starter, but will operate out of the bullpen until needed to start April 14 at San Francisco.

Lyles struggled to a 7.11 ERA this spring but is ready for a clean slate beginning with the first game at Coors.

"My first two Opening Days in Denver, I was just there watching them and it was electric," Lyles said. "It's fun when you can't see any empty seats. I'm honored, blessed, and it's going to be a fun day."

Gurka, 28, debuted last year (0-0, 9.39 ERA in nine games) with the Rockies after a long apprenticeship with the Orioles, but returned to the Rockies this year a different pitcher with the development of a changeup and the sharpening of his fastball and curve. Gurka was removed from the Major League 40-man roster at season's end, but regained his spot.

"He basically outpitched the entire camp," Weiss said of Gurka, who struck out one in a hitless inning Saturday -- and survived a brief scare when he rolled on his left ankle while throwing a pitch -- in the Rockies' 8-5 loss to the Mariners. He finished his spring with a 1.69 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings.

"He was dominant,'' Weiss said. "I don't put all my eggs into the Spring Training basket, but there was a confidence that he showed this spring that lined up with the performance."

Oberg finished spring with a 10.24 ERA, Germen at 1.74.

McGee, obtained from the Rays during the offseason, becomes closer, with former Cardinals and Cubs closer Jason Motte out with a sore right shoulder. McGee has held righty batters to a .196 career average and lefties to .200.

"That's a big part of it for me," Weiss said. "If you have a closer that has extreme splits, they're going to face pinch-hitters in that ninth inning, so you lose the matchup battle. Against McGee, statistically, there's not a good matchup. I like that."

Have mask, will travel

The Rockies didn't have a spot in the Majors or Triple-A for non-roster catcher Jackson Williams, and couldn't find a trade, with many other teams having set their rosters. But Williams, who turns 30 on May 14, said Saturday he accepted assignment to Double-A Hartford.

He'll go from having experienced a jet-set life, with time in the Majors with the Rockies in 2014 and the Giants in 2014, to extended bus rides. The Hartford stadium is not scheduled to be ready for a home opener until May 31, which means nearly two months on the road to start the season.

"It'll be different, but at the same time we're used to living out of hotels and staying places short periods of time," Williams said. "That's a lot of time spent on the bus. We'll have to weather the storm, that's for sure.

"I'm going to go to Double-A and just try to get better as a player. If you look at it in a negative light, you're not doing yourself any favors. I'm looking forward to starting the season."

Worth noting

• Rookie righty Jon Gray, currently out with an abdominal strain, will face hitters in a live batting-practice session on Monday. If all goes well after that, Gray will make a Minor League rehab on April 8. Joining Gray on the disabled list to start the season will be righty relievers Jairo Diaz (right elbow surgery), Adam Ottavino (recovery from right elbow surgery) and Motte (right shoulder soreness), lefty starting pitcher Tyler Anderson (right oblique strain) and infielder Daniel Descalso.

Motte is resting the shoulder and hasn't begun strengthening or throwing, Anderson is strengthening but not throwing, and Descalso recently had the cast removed and will soon begin baseball activities. Diaz is out for the season, and Ottavino will return at midseason.

Catcher Tony Wolters, who made the team with a strong Spring Training after being claimed from the Indians at the start of camp, will rid himself of his No. 87 for his regular-season number, 14. Left- hander Tyler Matzek, who has missed much of camp in Denver working on a performance-anxiety issue, will wear No. 41 instead of the 15 he wore last season.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.